creative [kree-ey-tiv]: adjective. Synonyms: clever, cool, innovative, inspired, prolific, stimulating.

criticism [krit-uh-siz-uhm]: noun. The act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.

31 Oct 2010

The Titan's Curse - Rick Riordan

In this third installment of the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series, the plot thickens. New demigods are introduced, and some of them leave; the war against Olympus gains momentum, and our heroes must cross the continent once again.
Also, part of Hercules' mythology and some key elements of the Titan war take center stage, as our heroes meet and need to work with Artemis and her Hunters. Oh, and did I mention we finally get to meet Artemis and Apollo?
As always, a fun read full of action, adventure and almost deadly hijinks.

25 Oct 2010

How To Train Your Dragon - That 2010 Movie

There's dragons! And Vikings! And passing references to viking mythology! And a super cute dragon named Toothless! And also, an epic final battle.
I want to watch it again!

23 Oct 2010

The Affinity Bridge - George Mann

This novel combines all the usual trappings of the steampunk genre (Victorian-era setting, in London; things with gears and electricity; dirigibles; technology far more advanced than it was; tea) with a zombie invasion. Or at least, the beginning stages of a zombie infection.
It was an okay read; the dynamic between the hero of the story (he's a bit of a proto-Indiana Jones, and frankly he's just unkillable) and his lady assistant (slash love interest, I know, CLICHÉ) was really annoying, and the descriptions tended to be a bit overlong. However, I really liked the whole (BIG SPOILER HERE, although I figured it out about halfway through the novel) zombie robot idea. (/END SPOILER HERE, but seriously who cares.)
It's 330 pages long; read it if you want, but I don't think you really have to. If you don't like the steampunk genre, and have a low tolerance level for the Victorian era's patronizing attitude towards people with uteruses, you should really avoid it. Otherwise, shmeh.

18 Oct 2010

Fire - Kristin Cashore

This book is considered to be a "companion" to Kristin Cashore's debut novel, Graceling. It takes place years before Graceling's events, and we learn about the childhood (and childhood sociopathic tendencies) of Graceling's main antagonist, Leck.
However, for the most part it doesn't concern Leck; it concerns Fire, a girl with psychic powers and RED! hair. By "RED!", I mean unnaturally red; her hair would come out of several bottles of dye in this world, while it that world it marks her as a "monster". Monsters are creatures with unnatural colouring and psychic powers, who live in a place east of Graceling's seven kingdoms called the Dells (the Dells and the seven kingdoms are separated by a range of mountains), which is the setting of this story. Now, from what this novel tells us the monster phenotype is dominant, and also contains an aggression component: all monsters want to eat other monsters of other species.
Ok, I'm not going to explain the entire novel here (that's what Wikipedia is for), but essentially I found that it dealt with typical fantasy tropes (almost nobody has a living mother, there's eeevil fathers and good fathers and good children and eeevil children and the distinctions are pretty clear, psychic powers, again with the theme of prejudice), while keeping elements that typical fantasy novels usually forget (contraception exists! And so does menstruation; when Fire's bleeding, monsters smell her monster blood and want to attack, and the particular type of blood involved doesn't matter. Also, PMS (as in cramps, mostly), exists and is acknowledged.).
I liked it better than Graceling, to be honest.
I think I'll keep an eye out for this author's next novels.

15 Oct 2010

The Sleeping Beauty - Mercedes Lackey

EAUGH, THE PINKNESS! IT BURNS! Not really, but still, who's the over-'shopped girl on the cover?? The main character (a princess called Rosamund) is actually blonde. Cover art FAIL.
This is a novel from the 500 Kingdoms series - in which the magical Tradition makes fairy tales happen for real to various characters, by pushing their lives more or less along the paths that are pre-ordained by folk tales and traditions.
As the cover might lure you into thinking (rightly), this is complete and utter fluff reading. Which is good, sometimes! (Hey, even I need a break from orgo chem once in a while; electrophilic aromatic reactions aren't endlessly fascinating)
This fluffy fantasy novel combines elements from the Sleeping Beauty tale, the Snow White storyline, some Viking legends or sagas or mythology (yaaay, mytholgy!), as well as the classic "hundreds of princes must successfully complete these weird trials to marry the princess" story going on, and some other stuff. It's entertaining, if predictable.

11 Oct 2010

Ancestor - Scott Sigler

This novel is great!

Now, let's cut the whole mini synopsis thing and go to what really interests me: how this novel compares to Jurassic Park. Because let's face it, everything that has to do with genetic engineering gone lethally out of control will be compared to Jurassic Park.

Let's see:

  • Setting: an isolated island. Check.
  • Limited number of people on the island. Check. Most of them die; double check. All the designated bad guys die; triple check.
  • There's a hurricane-level (or rather, blizzard-level) storm at some point. Check.
  • There's genetic engineering going on. Check.
    • HOWEVER, while JP's geneticists made dinosaurs from preserved DNA, the ancestors were actually made from scratch and from genetic projections... the book explains it better
    • Also: the genetic engineering going on is financed by a company, and there's some trouble on the company's financial horizon. While industrial espionage and running from the international hand of the law aren't quite in the same league, CHECK.
  • Everything would have gone well if someone hadn't fucked up repeatedly. Check.
    • Mind you, in JP Nedry's the sole responsible person for the disaster (in my opinion), whereas in Ancestor... Person A messed up with the design, person B messed up by enabling the monsters to live, person C is sociopathic, person D is an all-around asshole - the list goes on.
  • Sex! Actually, JP didn't have any sexing up going on (except for the dinos, but that was behind the... foliage). Nevermind.
  • Sort of ominous and open-ended story: check.
Final verdict: Ancestor is better than Jurassic Park. The science is better, there's a bunch of current references that amused me (including a jab at H1N1 and a recurring gag involving porn-y vampire romance novels), it's very fast-paced and gory, and quoth the Advance Praise on the back of the book:
"Michael Crichton has a worthy successor in Scott Sigler.... Ancestor takes thriller and science fiction conventions and slams them together to make something new and fascinating [...]" - Simon R. Green

3 Oct 2010

Ptolemy's Gate - Jonathan Stroud

This third and final installment of The Bartimaeus Trilogy is epic.
It takes place three years after the events of The Golem's Eye - Nathaniel is the seventeen-year-old Minister of Information (or some such thing) now, and in the past years he's grown even colder and imperious and paranoid. In other words, he's become a typical (if brilliant and talented) magician. His career is precariously perched on the barely not-collapsing shoulders of the British Empire, and for the first part of the novel he thinks of himself as John Mandrake. You'll see what I mean when you read the book.
Our other human protagonist, Kitty Jones, is living the underground and illegal life; she had been officially declared dead at the end of The Golem's Eye, and she is now living two lives under false identities; by night she works in a bar where commoners often gather to talk about what they can do to change their situation and overthrow the government, and by day she's a magician's assistant (to an old magician who doesn't see eye-to-eye with the government), with the hopes of summoning and asking the assistance of one particular djinni.
Yes, she wants to summon Bartimaeus. They had an interesting conversation three years prior, but little does Kitty know that Bartimaeus isn't in good shape. At all. Everyone's favorite djinni and first-person character had been continuously summoned to Earth for about two years, and as a result, he's crankier and weaker and cheekier than ever. In this book, though, we finally start to learn about his past with Ptolemy (yes, the same one whose Gate is in the title), so that's fun.
Anyways, this is a very very good end to the trilogy; I swear, half the book is about the epic! showdown! at the end (also known as the "climax" of the trilogy). It's fun!
Oh, and I took the cover art from this blogpost. Yes, this ten-year-old can write reviews of comparable caliber to mine. (I kid! But it's cute.)

2 Oct 2010

Putain - Nelly Arcan

This short (186 pages long) debut novel is a first-person narrative told by an escort (yes, a prostitute) in Montreal who studies literature and jots down her thoughts in between clients.
Seriously, the narrator has a shitload of issues - she's had to deal with anorexia, she's rather misogynistic (and is aware of it), she despises and is disgusted by her mother (while being aware that she's turning into her mother), she's suicidal, and has a very weird unconsummated incestuous thing with her father. It was a bit of a disturbing read, but a well-written one at least, with a very distinctive writing style; the sentences were long and ran on for pages, very much as if we were in the narrator's head.
Did I like it? I don't know. Would I recommend reading it? Hell yes.

The Princess and the frog - That 2009 Disney movie

I am such a kid.
It's a good movie, although I did find parts of dialogue hard to understand because of the characters' accents and because I am REALLY TIRED and I have trouble with accents (and run-on sentences) when I am tired.
The character design was very Disney princess style, and the animation mostly hearkened back to the days of The Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Mulan and such. With the notable exception of the main antagonist, the evil Voodoo Doctor Facilier - by the way, I think he's my favorite Disney villain so far, and I'm quite disappointed that he didn't have more scenes. Anyways, the overall look of the movie should be familiar to anyone who's grown up with Disney movies, with some interesting (but brief) forays into different (and sometimes REALLY TRIPPY) styles. I liked it!
And like any self-respecting Disney movie, there are songs! My favorite being Doctor Facilier's Friends On The Other Side. And my second favorite being Tiana's Almost There (the change in animation style is fun!). Fun stuff!